Brother of JonBenét Ramsey Files Defamation Suit Against CBS

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The Case of JonBenét.
The Case of JonBenét. Credit: CBS

The brother of JonBenét Ramsey is suing CBS and a slew of others for at least $750 million, claiming he was defamed after the network aired a four-hour documentary that allegedly painted him as his sister's killer.

The brother, Burke Ramsey, claims CBS' marketing portrayed its four-hour broadcast, "The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey," as a documentary when, in fact, "it was a fictional crime show based primarily on a preconceived storyline scripted in a self-published and commercially unsuccessful book, 'Foreign Faction,'" according to the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in the Third Circuit Court in Wayne County, Mich.

JonBenét Ramsey was killed, tortured and sexually assaulted on either Christmas Day or in the early hours of Dec. 26, 1996. The crime had gained widespread media attention, but ultimately, both the police and district attorney concluded Burke Ramsey "did not have any idea or knowledge about what had happened to his sister," the suit said.

According to the lawsuit, CBS represented and promoted "The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey" as a documentary that viewers expected to be factually accurate. Overall, more than 18 million people tuned in to watch the two-part series which first aired Sept. 18.

"CBS represented and promoted that the documentary would reveal the truth by presenting to viewers new witnesses, new evidence and new theories," the suit said. "CBS further represented and promoted that for the documentary it had assembled a highly skilled team of seven world-renowned investigators who would conduct a 'complete reinvestigation starting right from scratch.'"

Generally speaking, the suit claims that the show, produced for CBS by independent studio Critical Content, blames then 9-year-old Burke Ramsey for killing his sister in the basement of their Boulder, Colo. home.

The suit points to a number of instances where Burke Ramsey had been cleared of any wrongdoing by authorities but was not included in CBS' docu-series. One such example includes a public statement made by then Boulder District Attorney Alex Hunter, who said Burke had no connection to his sister's murder.

The three-count lawsuit claims defamation, conspiracy to defame (by CBS and Critical Content) and seeks at least $750 million in damages. CBS, Critical Content, Jim Clemente, Laura Richards, A. James Kolar, James Fitzgerald, Stanley B. Burke, Werner Spitz and Henry C. Lee were listed as defendants.

Mr. Clemente, Mr. Burke and Mr. Fitzgerald all previously worked for the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit and were either in or directly involved with the documentary; Ms. Richards is a former behavioral analyst with New Scotland Yard; Mr. Kolar is a former Boulder District Attorney who wrote a book about the Ramsey murder, "Foreign Faction;" Mr. Spitz is a forensic pathologist, who, according to the lawsuit, "is a well-known television talking head who frequently interjects himself into high profile cases for publicity and profit." Mr. Lee was described in similar fashion.

The lawsuit was filed in Michigan because that is the home of Mr. Spitz, the lawsuit said.

Burke Ramsey is being represented by Atlanta-based lawyer Lin Wood and could not immediately be reached for comment. CBS declined to comment and Critical Content could not be immediately reached.

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